PHOTOS: Kids Fest helped children with autism develop all kinds of important skills
From dancing on the stage to trying out their favourite musical instruments and having pictures taken with giant furry mascots - there was plenty of fun to be had at Kids Fest this weekend.
The outdoor event, in Dubai’s Festival City, saw thousands of the UAE’s children get together to dance, play games and hang out together.
7DAYS arranged for a group of youngsters from the Child Early Intervention Medical Centre to attend the event yesterday. For them, getting the chance to play with their peers meant more than just letting their hair down.
American mother of three April McCabe brought along Ellie, six, Matthew, eight, and nine-year-old Owen, who has autism. She explains: “Having a child with autism, it’s quite difficult to find something that all the children can do together.
They can’t play sports together, going to the movies is a challenge, forget amusement parks because he won’t wait in line - anything you have to wait in a queue is very challenging for my son to do. My children are really close in age so it really affects the other two as they want their brother involved.”
Wael Alawabdah, a therapist at the Child Early Intervention Centre, believes it is important for children with conditions such as autism to practise new skills they’ve learned in public. He says: “One girl I work with at the centre plays piano so the first thing she did when she got to Kids Fest was go the piano.
“Everyone was watching her saying: ‘Wow!’ because she’s so good.
“At the centre we teach things in a structured way but here she had a chance to generalise the skills we’ve taught her.”
Carolina Tovar is the CEO of the centre. She also has a nine-year-old son, Rafael, who has autism.
She explains how often parents of children with special needs can shy away from social occasions for fear their child will be unable to handle the new experience. However, she says it’s important mums and dads face challenges head on.
She explains: “We came here to be part of the community and practise behaviour and social skills. The sound, lights, amount of people also help children with sensory issues. The more exposure you give them, the better they’re able to cope with situations.
Sometimes you want to avoid situations but we actually encourage not doing that. The more you get a child to practise, the better he’s going to be. Confront situations and deal with them because then the child will be able to deal with them in the long term. It might be harder today but when he’s older, he’ll be able to cope and know whats expected of him.”
And Dr Erica Edwards, who also works at the centre, says it’s not only the children who benefit from a day out in the community. She adds: “I think education and awareness is very important because not everyone knows what autism is or they think it’s a disease and they don’t want to mix with the children. It is good for people in the community to be around people with different abilities because if children are exposed to children with different abilities at a young age, as an adult they won’t feel uncomfortable being around people with different abilities.”